From Raven Magazine…

NPSIA Master’s student Yassen Atallah.

Last January, Yassen Atallah — a master’s student at Carleton’s Norman Paterson School of International Affairs — landed a co-op position as a policy analyst at Health Canada’s Health Care Innovation Secretariat. He expected to work at the agency’s Ottawa office, applying his studies in international organizations and global public policy toward improving the country’s health care system. By the time he began his co-op from remote in May — a four-month post that has been extended to the end of December — the landscape was different.

Like every other organization, the public service wasn’t totally prepared for this pandemic. We’ve adapted very well, but when I started it was like being put in the middle of a forest fire: everybody was running around trying to put it out and I was trying to find the buckets and the water. My training wasn’t traditional. It was, “Here’s a bunch of tasks, you’re going to learn as you go.” So from day one I just started helping wherever I could.

The secretariat is juggling a number of COVID-19-related files on data policy, digital tools, health innovation and bilateral agreements between the federal government and our provincial and territorial partners. We’re also negotiating funding agreements with provinces and territories so that they can improve their virtual care capacity. Generally speaking, any policy or research or funding is primarily focused on COVID-19, but we also understand that the implications of this work can reach beyond the pandemic.

I’m especially passionate about assisting with the Canadian Health Information Forum. Our team supports biweekly meetings with federal, provincial and territorial associate deputy ministers and other senior government officials to discuss Canada’s COVID-19 response and how governments and other pan-Canadian organizations can work together to address health data gaps and priorities. This is important as the availability of and timely access to data is needed to understand, monitor and respond to the pandemic.

My responsibilities include analyzing federal, provincial and territorial objectives and needs, as well as preparing the logistics for each of the meetings. The forum is a really dynamic, fast moving group — we tackle a number of topics every meeting — and lessons learned in various provinces and territories can lead to a more effective response to COVID-19.

It’s pretty cool to see how provinces and territories aren’t just focused on their own jurisdictions. They’re communicating with one another and sharing knowledge. That’s really inspiring, because to make a significant change we need to work collectively.

Working at Health Canada has allowed me to gain invaluable insight into the inner workings of health ministries and how they navigate complex crises to deliver a wide range of services. Ever since my undergrad, I’ve wanted to be at the intersection of the social and natural sciences. Being at Health Canada during these trying times has provided me with a great opportunity to apply my policy skills to improve the lives of some of most marginalized people in Canada.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020 in ,
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